An SUV that gets 45 mpg? Impossible, right? Wrong. Some Ford Escape Hybrid drivers are consistently breaking the 40-mpg mark. How do they do it?
You can find clues in numerous online discussion forums—but it’s not always easy to fully understand the finer points of “brake tapping” or “fake shifting.” So we took the trouble of reading hundreds of web posts, and to speak directly with the most accomplished of fuel-efficient drivers. (Special thanks to Gary Gattis.) The table below—very much a work in progress—is our attempt to organize the greatest hits of Ford Escape Hybrid mileage advice into something you can use everyday.
Ultimately, it’s your job to see which of these techniques produce the best results. Let us know about your experiences. We’ll use your feedback to continue to add and modify this unofficial “Reader’s Digest” guide to maximizing your mileage.
The Ford Escape Hybrid can reward the careful driver with mile-long stretches of all-electric driving, yielding fuel economy that surpasses most cars half its size. With a little practice, you can easily drop into all-electric mode (with a tap on the brake at the right time) or send a quick charge to the batteries (with the quick a release of the accelerator).
Give any hybrid a full six months and/or 10,000 miles to get broken in. The biggest impact occurs in the first 2,000 miles or so, and it may take as much as 15,000 to achieve peak mpg’s. Hybrid owners commonly experience a 10-15% improvement in fuel economy after the new car smell has drifted away.
Speed is your enemy. The ideal routes have long stretches without stops, and speed limits of 30 – 35 mph. (The sweet spot for most hybrids, in “steady-state” testing, is between 40 and 45 mph.)
Don’t be concerned about hills, especially routes with short steep uphills and long gradual downhills. The coast on the way down—especially if uninterrupted—will more than make up for the extra energy to get to the top. And the downhill stretches will give you a chance to recharge your battery through regenerative braking.
Experiment with multiple routes to see which paths consistently produce the best mileage.
When to Drive
Cold starts are mpg killers. The Escape Hybrid and other hybrids get the worst mileage in the first five to ten minutes of driving, because gasoline is being used to charge your batteries. (The one exception: If the batteries are fully charged when the vehicle is powered down, the engine will not be used to charge the battery at the next run cycle.)
Try to get all your errands done in one outing. If you can arrange it, drive after the day has warmed up. Hot humid air is the least dense, and produces the least air resistance.
Avoid rush-hour traffic, if at all possible.
Do your best to skip driving during rainy, slushy or snowy conditions.
Tire pressure (i.e., rolling resistance) has a significant influence on fuel economy, and an obvious impact on safety and the quality of your ride. Do the research, and make your own decisions about how far to take the tire pressure to maximize mileage.
Drivers getting the highest mileage recommend using the recommended maximum tire pressure on the sidewalls—not the psi supplied by the automaker on the doorframe.
Maintain the maximum recommended tire pressure. Check the tire pressure regularly so the pressure does not fall below the maximum level.
Low octane gasoline is best. (There is actually less energy in high-octane fuel.) Avoid alcohol additives.
Some convenience stores may use more additives than “name brand” gas stations.
Distance from Other Vehicles
Be aware of road conditions. Taking your foot off the accelerator absolutely as soon as you know that you’ll need to slow down or stop—and knowing how to extend your all-electric drive below 40 mph—are the two keys to excellent mileage in an Escape Hybrid.
To give yourself time to stop and coast, create space between you and the car in front of you—except when you have the opportunity to “draft” behind other larger vehicles on the highway. You can obtain the benefits of drafting while maintaining a safe distance of 150 feet of more.
Starting & Warming Up
Make all of the necessary seat and mirror adjustments before starting up. When you are ready, start-up and get going without delay.
From a cold start, don’t expect to get into all-electric mode during the first couple of miles. To reduce the time it takes for the warmup period, in which the vehicle is using gasoline to recharge the batteries, give a quick recharge to the batteries by following these steps:
- Accelerate very slowly to 30 mph, holding the rpm’s as close as possible to 1800.
- Shift to Low (L), and quickly withdraw your foot from the accelerator. Coast for a few seconds.
- Very gently restore your foot to the accelerator and return to a speed slightly faster than your desired pace.
- Shift to N, and coast as long as possible. At this point, the battery will have received two quick charges. With energy in your batteries, the vehicle will no longer call for gasoline to be used for charging the batteries, and the instantaneous mpg meter will show an improvement in fuel efficiency.
The most essential piece of information is the instantaneous reading of mileage–available with the optional navigation system. With the nav system, your mpg will be tracked over various periods of time.
Instantaneous fuel economy bar and reading is also available on the non-navigation system. It is located in the message center of the instrument cluster. To obtain the reading use the “set” and “info” buttons on the dash panel.
Accelerating & Cruising
Accelerate as smooth and gently as possible, trying to stay below 1800 rpm’s.
If traffic conditions require rapid acceleration, try to stay between 2,300 and 2,500 rpm’s.
45 – 55 mph is an ideal range of speed.
For highway driving, get best results by setting cruise control at 55 mph. For every mph over 50 mph, you lose approximately 1 mpg. Slowing down from 65 to 60 mph or from 75 to 70 mph will save you approximately 5 mpg.
Rapid acceleration guzzles gas, and will quickly knock the vehicle out of all-electric mode.
Braking & Deceleration
In a Ford Escape Hybrid, you can extend the length of coasting by using N. Anticipate the need to stop, shift into N, but do not place your foot on the brake. While in N, you will be slowly slowing down without regenerative braking.
To slow down slightly more quickly and engage the regenerative braking, leave your foot off the brake, but shift into Low (L).
To put even more regenerative braking energy into the batteries, and come to a quick stop, shift into L and apply pressure on the brakes.
In all cases, decelerate at a slow and steady pace. Applying pressure on the pedal increases the deceleration rate, which can cause the friction brakes to be applied too early. Friction brakes, although necessary to bring the vehicle to a complete stop, waste energy.
From a standstill, a Ford Escape Hybrid can use only electricity to move forward. If the driver uses excruciatingly gentle acceleration, the vehicle can stay in all-electric mode up to about 35 mph. The maximum all-electric speed is 40 mph.
If the gas engine starts at relatively high speeds (near 40 mph), shift into L, gently doubletap the brakes—sometime referred to as the “hybrid tap”—and the vehicle will return to all-electric mode. This is a tricky maneuver and takes practice to achieve.
Reasons why you might have difficulty getting into all-electric mode:
- Your vehicle is still warming up after a cold-start.
- You are accelerating too quickly.
- Your Ford Escape Hybrid is not broken in yet.
- You have a 4wd Escape Hybrid, which is more difficult to hold the all-electric mode at higher speeds than with a 2wd FEH.
- Driving conditions, such as headwinds or snowy conditions, can knock the Ford Escape Hybrid out of all-electric mode.
The Escape Hybrid is able to travel uphill without burning any gas.
Idle versus Shutdown
If you need to remain stationary for more than three minutes, shut down the vehicle.
If conditions are right for all-electric mode, shift into L under 45 mph, and letting off the gas pedal can cause the Escape Hybrid to go into all-electric mode.
Low is not actually a gear. It’s the wheels and axles turning the traction/motor generator while slowing and charging the battery.
Coasting in N, rather than D, can improve the length of the coast by 30% or more.
AC and Accessories
Running MaxAC will prevent all-electric mode.
Avoid AC whenever possible. If AC is a must, then recirculate the air from inside the cabin, rather than cooling down or heating up the outside air.
According to Ford, the use of accessories carries these mpg “penalties:”
- Radio = .8 mpg
- Rear Defroster = .8 mpg
- Headlights = .9 mpg
- Fan on High = 1.3 mpg
- Using A/C at 60 mpg = 1.2 mpg<
State of Charge (SOC)
Keeping a high charge in the batteries will reduce the load on the gasoline internal combustion engine. Use a more aggressive braking style described above (e.g. quick lift off the accelerator or applying brake in L gear) to quickly recharge batteries.
Try to finish your drive with a more depleted battery.
Beginning drivers should use cruise control as much as possible, even at relatively low speeds. You must be traveling at least 30 mph to engage cruise control.
Avoid the use of cruise control on grades. Cruise control overestimates engine power demand on uphill, crest, and at the beginning of a downhill.
After learning a few advanced techniques, try to improve fuel efficiency without using cruise control. Many drivers find the techniques described here either too difficult or demanding, and prefer to use cruise control indefinitely.
To go into all-electric mode while using cruise control:
- Set the cruise control at 35 mph.
- Accelerate to 45 mph.
- Downshift to L.
- Let off the gas.
- When you coast down to 40 mph, the all-electric mode will engage. Continue gliding down to 35 mph.
- Cruise control will maintain your speed while all-electric mode continues. The vehicle will stay in all-electric mode for as long as one mile or until any change in road conditions required more acceleration.
In addition to the “hybrid tap” described above, the Ford Escape Hybrid can go into all-electric mode using this technique:
- Accelerate gently to approximately 43 mph.
- Shift to L.
- Let off the gas. No tap required.